An epic telescope fail

You had a bad day?

You wrote an important business email to someone and spelled their name wrong. You called your boss “darling” in a meeting, out of the blue and quite by mistake. You made 7 copies of a 120 page script, forgetting to press the collate button, or to number the pages.

But whenever one of these indignities of spirit occurs, I try to remember, and urge you to try to remember, the Telescope Guy.

We’re talking about a huge telescope. An enormous satellite-style disk receiving radio waves. Gigantic. Think football pitch. Remember the bit in Mission Impossible when the disk rises from a lake and Tom Cruise slides down it? Yeah. One of those.

Well these telescopes run day and night, and it’s usually the job of some lowly physics grad student to stay up in the small hours of the morning, checking the signal, adjusting the angle of the disk, and making sure everything is running smoothly.

It’s almost dawn when Telescope Guy comes back from the vending machine, coffee in hand to discover, all the signals have gone to 00.00. That’s not good, he thinks. He presses buttons, and no doubt does the scientific equivalent of the things that we would all try – unplugging and plugging things in again and hitting the monitor – then with a feeling of dread, he looks out of the window.

The entire massive satellite dish has fallen off its support and is lying, prone, entirely covering the car park.

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